Sunday, December 28, 2008

George W. Bush, WPE*: Legacy of Death

Seems like you can’t turn on a radio or TV these days without seeing Bush or his crew working hard on his “legacy”. I’ve watched a few minutes, just to get an idea of how they might be trying to spin history in their favor. Bush has no regrets. Laura and Condi think that he’s done a good job. Cheney lives in his own little world and just seems secretly glad that no one figured out that he was the mastermind.

I’ve been mulling it over for some time now. I started working on my own version of what I think Bush’s legacy should be months ago, long before the election and the signal for change by the American people.

One key feature of the Bush administration over the last eight years has been the interesting use of propaganda and word-smithing to hide the true nature of their policies and agendas. For example, the gutting of existing environmental laws was called “The Clean Air Act” and the gigantic over grab for power by the Executive Branch that weakened Constitutional protections was called “The Patriot Act.”

Randi Rhodes, the goddess of left-wing talk radio, recognized early that whatever the neocons called a bill, it actually did the opposite of what the title suggested.

It occurred to me that Bush’s legacy was fraught with irony on many levels. So much incompetence at management despite his MBA “credential”. Wasn’t this supposed to be the first time we brought business management to the White House?

His laughable promise to “control spending” brought us the largest deficit in the history of the US, despite inheriting a surplus.

He campaigned on bringing the country together. We’ve never been split further apart by a leader.

But the real joke on us all was that George W. was “pro-life” in any sense of the word.

I started thinking about this man, who used the religious right wing of his party, particularly the anti-abortionists, to push himself over the magic majority number to win the office in 2000. Interestingly, despite control over the Executive Branch, the US Supreme Court and majorities in both the House and the Senate, he did not accomplish his promised overturn of Roe V. Wade. Think he forgot? Not likely.

Quite the opposite I think.

How the right wing continues to stick with the Republican Party and how 17% still believe this man has done anything good is beyond me.

I propose therefore that we begin Bush’s legacy with an more honest naming of it, specifically, I propose that we call it Bush’s Legacy of Death.

At some point during the last eight years, I began to wonder exactly how many actual deaths George W. Bush might be responsible for. There is no way of course to determine an exact figure, since many of his policies have had indirect effects or effects that are yet to occur, but will cause death in the near and likely distant future. The best I could do then was to find existing estimates of deaths using reputable websites and news sources.

The data is as follows:

(1) Prior to becoming President, Mr. Bush presided over 152 executions in Texas


(2) Despite warnings of an impending terrorist attack using airplanes in the US, 2752 people died as a result of the attacks on 9/11 . (

(3) Coalition soldiers killed in Iraq: 4488 (US troops: 4185)


(4) Iraqi civilian casualties: 87.833


(5) Coalition soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 985 (US soliders: 609)


(6) Afghani civilians casualty estimates: 3000-3400


Policy positions leading to deaths include:

(7) US deaths attributable to lack of health care/insurance: 22,000 per year x 8 years= 176,000


(8) Deaths due to poverty in the US: unknown



(9) Deaths and suffering from slowed medical research including stem cell development: unknown

(10) Deaths attributable to lowered environmental standards: unknown


(11) Deaths due to deregulation of industry- unknown


(12) Hate Crime deaths over the 8 years of the Bush Administration: 96


(13) Deaths associated with Hurricane Katrina: 1698


(14) Deaths attributable to growth and expansion of Al Qaeda in the world: unknown

(15) Deaths among US detainees including Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo: 108


Total deaths, on Bush’s watch, many of which were directly or indirectly a result of his decisions or lack of attention: 277,112 plus countless unknown.

This is a vast underestimate mind you, and I'm sure you may be able to come up with numbers that I've never even considered, but it does speak to the unspeakable damage this man has heaped upon our nation.

So, just like some people would like to put an asterisk by Barry Bonds’ name in the record books for his suspect behavior around steroids, I propose that right by W’s name, we place the letters WPE, to denote his status as Worst President Ever*.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Prop 8 and Holidays Blues: Two New Interviews

I had the honor of being a guest on two shows yesterday, Gay Men Talking with Alex and Dean, a regular podcast on iTunes and through their website, and Queer FM hosted by Heather Kitching on CITR 101.9 FM and available through archive at

Dean and Alex and I discussed the psychological aftermath of the passage of Prop 8 and a little bit on "Holiday Blues" and what to do about them.

Heather and I continued the theme of what to do about the blues and stress around the holidays.

Both are great shows to download and listen to when you want information and fun.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

An Open Letter to Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard, the disgraced evangelist who was accused of sex and drugging with openly gay-for-pay call boy, Mark Jones, has resurfaced today in the news as the subject of a forthcoming HBO documentary by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Alexandra.

I have not yet seen the film, but advance information suggests that while Mr. Haggard continues to live with his wife and children in an attempt to save his family, he says that he has "never claimed to be heterosexual" and has had a "lifelong battle" with his sexuality.

It is with this in mind that I began thinking about how I might reach out to this man if I ever had the chance and I decided to write this blog.

Dear Ted:

With all this press about the new film about you, and the revived attention to your past indiscretions, I imagine that this is quite the holiday for you personally. I understand that after you fell from the grace of your church, your professional life has taken quite the hit as well. Selling insurance is in many ways I guess what you've been doing all along.

We open gays are struggling ourselves at the moment too by the way. As you know, it is difficult to have someone hate you because of something about you that you can't change. But what made it particularly difficult for me growing up was that not only was my family telling me that being gay was bad, the church that I spent so much of my childhood in also followed the traditional script that gay is a choice and therefore condemnation was acceptable. To me, that meant that I was so evil that even God did not love me.

I have to admit that I am not familiar with your teachings about gays before you were "outed". I would bet that you were exposed to the same kinds of homophobia I experienced and were therefore a product of the same indoctrination. My church taught me to hate myself before I even knew who I was. I understand, Ted, what it's like to fear rejection by the people you love and to live every day of your life remembering to hide who you are and to pretend that you're something your not, just to bask in the illusion that things are ok.

In my own adolescent mind, the choice was drawn for me- reject myself or reject my God. As is the case with many fundamentalist religions, there was no "in between", no gray areas about this. You were either straight and good or gay and bad. You pick.

Living a lie was my first choice. Like you, I tried to have it all. I tried to hide who I was from everyone including my parents, my church, my friends and myself. I prayed to God for something different. I begged God to fix me or kill me. And, as you well know, God did neither. Eventually, I could not hide it anymore and I chose to reject my religion and my concept of God. I remember the moment that I said "ok God, since you're not taking this (gayness) away and you're not taking my life, I'm going to go the other way and accept myself as who I am." I remember swallowing hard and wondering if I'd just sealed my fate into hell if the God of the fundamentalists really existed.

But then something started to happen. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to feel less anxiety and less fear. I began to meet other people just like me. In my college classes, I began to understand that the world does exist in shades of gray and that no one has a lock on the "truth". My black and white world began to fall apart and I began to think differently. What I once thought was off limits to me, namely a full and fulfilling spiritual life, started to emerge.

Since then Ted, I have to tell you that things have only gotten better. The tortured life I lived (both inside and outside) began to improve. I found people who weren't so concerned about judging me. And I realized that all though myths about homosexuals weren't really true at all.

One might say now, Rev. Haggard, that I have had nothing short of a blessed life since I acknowledged my own inner truth. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am a "Christian" in any organized way, I would say that the story of the person who was Jesus Christ inspires me today. As does the Buddha and the Kabbalah and Sufi mysticism.

Today, because I've learned to love myself as I am, I am more inclined to love others. Because I love the man I chose to settle down with, I feel a deep contentment that I never imagined was possible.

Not to say that I don't continue to struggle because I do. Nowadays, I struggle with people who continue to perpetuate the negative myths and the stereotypes about gay people that have long been shown to be false. I struggle with the Rick Warrens of the day and the people who support Prop 8 in California. I get really angry at religious leaders who refuse to seek the truth about this issue and subliminally encourage the lunatic fringe out there to act on homophobic impulses by committing hate crimes. Ignoring the truth intentionally is one of life's true evils I think.

Ted, I am curious about your inner life right now. Perhaps you have made your peace in your own way. Maybe you have been honest with yourself about who you are. Maybe you have found a way to be gay, Christian, a father and married to a woman that works for you. Maybe not.

But my first reaction to the stories about you (,2933,470038,00.html) were to identify with the awful conflicts that you've had to face. It is a place that I am familiar with.

If no one's said this, I am sorry that you had to go through this. If you are in the beginning process of acknowledging that you are gay, I applaud you and your courage. I encourage you to live your truth and I see an enormous opportunity for you to share your story in ways that will bring healing to other lesbians and gays out there who face the same struggles you've faced. And anything that you might have said disparaging gay people in your ministry is forgiven.

I would not be surprised if you are tired and feeling alone in many ways right now. Many of us have faced similar battles, if not quite so public.

Welcome to the LGBT community. If you need to talk, let me know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ella eating an Apple

I know I need to get back to writing on this thing. I have a post already started in draft mode. But, in the meantime, enjoy this little snippet from my life this morning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Huckabee vs. Stewart

I stumbled onto a clip of Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential hopeful and Arkansas governor, as a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (on my friend Walt's blog) and I shuddered.

Mike Huckabee is another one of those right wing, folksy Repubs, who seems likeable and he's smart. He's in the Palin category, but he has tons more charm and actually understands politics and government.

Those types scare me. They put a human face on some very ugly, self-righteous beliefs and he so reminds me of the preachers I grew up with in my face three times a week telling me how things should be.

That's why Jon Stewart's brilliant moves on the show were so interesting to me.

Mike Huckabee suffers a little bit from an overinflated sense of self-importance I think. My observation is that he thinks he can use his wit and his good ol' boy persona to push himself into the spotlight. At some level, you have to wonder if he thinks that making a joke out of something potentially heated or polarizing makes the issue go away. After all, how can you be mad at someone who can laugh at himself?

There in lies the danger.

Jon Stewart however, is also no unfamiliar with using humor to convey a serious point. And he's also not afraid to step right out of his comedy mode to skewer the guests that bring their outrageous values onto his stage and think they'll get away with it. At some level, Mike Huckabee, overconfident in his own wit and smarts, must have thought that appearing on The Daily Show would boost his "coolness" factor, show the world that he's not just a hick from Arkansas, but deserves a place at the national debate table.

And then Jon Stewart pounced. It was a beautiful thing to watch as Jon brought Huckabee to task for his stand on gays and gay marriage. Huckabee had no answers. He had nothing. He sputtered and hemmed and hawed, spewing the same old slock that is not rational, nor articulate. When Huck talked about keeping the "traditional" definition of marriage to "one man and one woman", Jon was there with the fact that the Bible supports polygamy in the Old Testament, thus the definition of marriage HAS changed. No articulate response from the Huckster. Jon then drove home the point that in the spirit of humanity, wouldn't it make sense that two people who love each other be allowed to make a legal commitment to one another. Huck's response: the tired old nonpoint, once you change the definition from one man and one woman, then anybody can get married, reared its ugly head.

Which means that either Huck hasn't really truly thought this thing through, or he's truly confused about right and wrong.

There is no rational or spiritual argument that justifies keeping gays from marrying. And Mike Huckabee, thanks to Jon Stewart, revealed that he's nothing to be concerned about. As long as he tries to twist and rationalize his own self-righteous views about me and my marriage, he'll never be who he wants to be- a great man instead of just a funny man.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Holy Ghost People

Here's a short story I wrote some time ago about the snake handlers of West Virginia:

The Holy Ghost People

by Kimeron Hardin

The best thing about the meeting place had always been the music.  The old Yamaha organ with eight pedals (two of them broken since he could remember) was sounding “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.”  Mrs. Jolly, the organist, had always been there, playing the same songs and wearing the same faded and frayed choir robe.  He always sat in the same pew, in the same spot, every time his momma made him come.

             “He’s such a good boy, always tryin’ to do right and comin’ to church when he can- you know how hard he works since Mr. Jackson was taken from us.”  His momma used to tell the other ladies of the circle meeting how hard he worked, to excuse his many absences from the services.

             Isaiah Jackson was getting more restless than he had remembered in the past.  It had been years since he had been to the Holy Ghost Divine Gospel Church with his mother.

             “Why did I even come tonight?” he thought.  “I never liked to sit here and listen to somebody tell me how bad I was when I was growing up and momma don’t try much to make me come anymore.  Maybe things’ll get better if I go to church…can’t hurt.”  He’d been through a bad string of luck lately and was feeling low.

            Preacher Stamey made his way from the back of the church to the rough wood stand he called a pulpit, holding his guitar under one arm and the jacket to his worn gray suit under the other.  The Reverend was a hefty man with the start of a double chin.  His crew cut was already glistening with sweat and the veins in his nose were bright red.

            Mrs. Jolly cranked up a quick intro to “Take Me Lord” and his momma got whole-heartedly into each of the four verses.  His momma was a true believer and she believed every word she sang. He could tell she loved her church and her faith by the way she stood straight up- tall and proud- and smiled at the preacher as she sang.

            A fervor was building in the crowd, a quiet intensity at first, but then slowly louder and more powerful as the service progressed.  Preacher Stamey started his opening prayer with a burst of the tongues.           

            “Habaarabashanibadoba…PRAISE THE LORD!  Hallelujah!”

The preacher listened for the “Ay-y-mens” and “Hallelujahs” echoing back from throughout the congregation.

            Somehow, Isaiah had never received the gift of tongues.  His Momma said it would come when he got older and grew in his faith.  He watched the bare incandescent light bulbs hanging from their long, thin wires.  The temperature seemed warmer now and he tugged at his collar.

            Testimony time began with Henry Millard telling how God had saved two of his crops from the blight this week.  Sister Sarah, from Beaufort, shared her testimony about how she was near death, and then something about an angel dressed in white nursing her back to health overnight.  Isaiah tried to listen to the speakers, but his concentration was pierced with shouts of “Amen!” and “Yes Lord!”, and the slow buzzing of the people speaking in holy gibberish.

            “Shananaribantahosh…” screamed the young woman behind him, startling him into turning around.

            He had never felt so strange at the meeting place.  The intense heat was making him squirm and he wanted desperately to close his eyes for a few moments to re-organize his thoughts.

            Preacher Stamey coaxed the congregation to their feet and to the front of the tiny sanctuary to kneel at the altar.  Carried away by the “spirit,” a woman (Isaiah couldn’t remember seeing her before) began shaking from head to toe and dancing some exotic steps into the aisles.  It was like seeing a life-sized puppet on a string with no control over her body.  She had a blank look on her face and a piercing stare as her arms and legs whirled faster and faster through the air. 

            “Hallelujah!” shouted the crowd “the Lord’s got her now!”  Squeals of delight and syncopated cries of joy came from everywhere.

            Isaiah felt strangely drawn, almost compelled, to join his mother at the altar. 

            “Am I going crazy? Or is the Lord God really dealing with me?” he wondered.

            “Come….COME!  The Holy Ghost is drawing you to his bosom.  Be saved NOW if you’re guilty! Come on, do it now!” he heard from the pulpit.

            “Hallelujah, Amen!  Praise to God….naahbarabida!  Lord, have mercy!”  People wailed, screamed, hissed and shook on both sides of him.

            “Should I go?” He paused.


            “But God’s dealing with you Isaiah. “

            “NO!  NO!”  He tried to resist the seductive call from the front, to snap himself back into reality. 

            The room was swaying as he felt himself slip out of his seat and begin o walk slowly and mechanically to the altar.  A quartet started singing in the corner of the room and several more stringless puppets rolled on the floor and jumped around the prayerful.

            Preacher Stamey signaled for the snakes.

            “And the Lord God said, ‘Let my people handles my most despicable creation, the serpent, without fear.’”  He reached into one of the black boxes carried to the front by the deacons and pulled out four hissing and spitting rattlers, two in each hand.  They wriggled and twined around his arm, obviously upset and agitated, but not one of the struck.  The preacher seemed to have control…over the snakes and over Isaiah’s very thoughts.

            “It is the Lord!  Yes Lord, I hear you.  I’ve been bad Lord, REAL bad!”  He flashed back on the turn his life had taken through hard liquor and the gambling and the women.  He thought about the shame he brought on his family and his momma.  He knew it was wrong at the time, but he couldn’t stop himself after he lost his job at the mill and then losing his daddy.  He gave in to the devil and he knew it was time to make things right.  He knew he had hurt his momma bad.

              “Hallelujah!!” Isaiah shouted.

            Just like his momma said, this power…this intoxication…that had entered his mind, MUST be the Holy Ghost.  It was strange, and new…exciting.

            The Reverend passed the snakes around the crowd, throwing them through the air, to be caught and caressed by men, women and children.

            “You must believe!  Have faith!  If it’s God’s will that you die by snakebite, then die you WILL!  God knows all.  Come…PRAY!!  Preacher Stamey walked over to Isaiah and extended a large, shiny rattler. 

            “Here son…do you believe?” he said.

            “Yes, Preacher, YES!  Look momma, I’ve got faith…look!”

            He was immediately carried away by the excitement, the euphoria, like a child discovering something wonderful.  And then suddenly, he felt a sharp quick sting on the back of his left hand.  Within seconds, he realized what had just happened.

            “Oh my God!  I’ve been bitten!”  He jerked back into reality as he flung the snake to the side.

            “What the hell am I doing here? How did I get up to the altar?  Who are these people?  Where’s momma?”  His thoughts began to race and he felt his breath start to quicken.

            He felt a searing pain now, starting to throb its way up his forearm.  His pulse was racing and the room started to blur and clear as he dropped to his knees.

            “SOMEBODY HELP ME… HELP ME!” he screamed.

            All he could hear was “It’s God’s Will” and “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.”

            “God’s Will, God’s Will, God’s Will…” The voice was familiar.